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Bird returns from DL as Yankees option 'Toe'

With first baseman back, Torreyes sent down in roster crunch
MLB.com @BryanHoch

NEW YORK -- The Yankees have been counting down the days to restore Greg Bird's left-handed stroke to their lineup, so it serves as a high compliment to Ronald Torreyes that his demotion prompted so much conversation on Saturday afternoon, as the Yankees explained how they arrived at their call to option the utility man to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

A versatile piece off the bench and a popular presence in the clubhouse, Torreyes was ticketed for the Minors after Friday's 2-1 victory over the Angels, a move that manager Aaron Boone acknowledged was "not deserved" and created a ripple effect among the team's players.

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NEW YORK -- The Yankees have been counting down the days to restore Greg Bird's left-handed stroke to their lineup, so it serves as a high compliment to Ronald Torreyes that his demotion prompted so much conversation on Saturday afternoon, as the Yankees explained how they arrived at their call to option the utility man to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

A versatile piece off the bench and a popular presence in the clubhouse, Torreyes was ticketed for the Minors after Friday's 2-1 victory over the Angels, a move that manager Aaron Boone acknowledged was "not deserved" and created a ripple effect among the team's players.

View Full Game Coverage

"The news, you could feel it in our clubhouse last night," Boone said. "It was rough. It was a difficult night, which is simply a tribute to who Ronald Torreyes is and what he means to our team and our clubhouse and, frankly, the way he's performed in his years here."

Video: NYY@KC: Torreyes robs Butera with a diving stop

General manager Brian Cashman explained that there was no easy decision to be made. The Yankees are in a stretch of 14 games in 13 days, and given the state of their starting pitching, Cashman believes that it is "a likelihood and a necessity" to keep the pitching staff at 13 to protect the high-leverage relievers.

Gleyber Torres' emergence gives the Yankees a solid backup behind shortstop Didi Gregorius, and Neil Walker's ability to play first base, second base and third base provides coverage at the other infield positions. Cashman said his call ultimately came down to Torreyes against rookie Tyler Austin, who slugged eight homers while sharing first-base duties with Walker during Bird's absence.

Boone said he could see Austin logging starts at first base or as a DH against left-handed pitchers; Cashman pointed to a potential upcoming meeting with the Astros' Dallas Keuchel as a likely scenario for that.

"Tyler Austin has earned a lot," Cashman said. "He's here for a reason, despite obviously the roster being a little more jammed up at first base. I like the opportunities it creates for Aaron Boone on a daily basis with Neil Walker, with Tyler Austin and Greg Bird. We're excited to get Greg back and proud that Tyler earned what he did. I acknowledge that Toe didn't earn what he got, but the roster crunch is the roster crunch."

As Bird dressed at his Yankee Stadium locker, Torreyes' nameplate remained over the stall to his left. Boone and Cashman expressed hope that Torreyes' stint in the Minors could be short, though Cashman noted that the Yankees have several players at Triple-A who could be starting for other big league clubs.

"We'd like to get Toe back in the future at some point, but I can say the same thing about Clint Frazier, Brandon Drury, amongst others," Cashman said. "It was not an easy decision, but we're paid to make tough ones. We're thankful for what Toe has done thus far and we look forward to what he'll do for us in the future."

Returning from right ankle surgery performed in late March, the 25-year-old Bird completed his Minor League rehabilitation assignment with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday. He played four games at Triple-A, five at Double-A Trenton and three for Class A Advanced Tampa, batting a combined .205/.367/.436 with three homers and eight RBIs.

"In my experience, there's an adjustment period any time you move or get to a new place, but I know all these guys and they know me," Bird said. "I feel like I can hit the ground running. They've got a great team. I'm excited to be back and be part of it again."

Tweet from @Yankees: Get the word out. pic.twitter.com/9jiStFYXmN

Comeback trail
Left behind in Tampa, Fla., when the Yankees headed north at the end of Spring Training, Jacoby Ellsbury has been sidelined with a variety of maladies and has yet to play in a Minor League rehab game, having experienced issues with his right oblique, left hip, plantar fasciitis and back soreness. The back issues are currently keeping him from performing baseball activities, Cashman said.

"Everything that he's got has been diagnosed, legitimately, by a doctor," Cashman said. "It's frustrating, without question. … He's had a series of different circumstances that have stalled his rehab. That's unique, something we have not experienced before, where we have four to five different separate distinct injuries that have happened while he's been in rehab."

Cashman said the Yankees expect Ellsbury will play in 2018, but there is no set timetable for him to do so.

"It would be nice to have a healthy Jacoby Ellsbury push himself back into our world, because he would be a nice asset to deploy and be able to utilize," Cashman said. "I guess I've gotten mentally prepared for it not being anytime soon, but I'm not prepared for him not to be here at some point. I expect that to happen at some point."

In other injury updates, right-hander Adam Warren had his rehab transferred to Triple-A on Saturday. He started for the RailRiders but recorded just two outs, allowing four runs.

Catch this
The Yankees never needed to call upon Torreyes as their emergency third catcher, but now that he is off the active roster, Boone said Walker would take over that duty. Drafted as a catcher by the Pirates in the first round of the 2004 Draft, Walker gave up the gear after '06, when he shifted to third base. Bird was also drafted as a catcher.

This date in Yankees history
May 26, 2006: Derek Jeter collected his 2,000th career hit with an infield single off Scott Elarton in the third inning of a 7-6 win over the Royals at Yankee Stadium.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Yankees, Greg Bird, Ronald Torreyes